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John Inkster Goodlad

John Inkster Goodlad

Researcher and prophet John Inkster Goodlad (born 1917) was one of the chief movers in American education during the last half of the 20th century.

John Goodlad, one of two boys born to William James and Mary (Inkster) Goodlad, spent the first nine years of his life on the hillsides of North Vancouver, British Columbia. Attendance at the six-room school required a long walk down the hill at the beginning of the day and another back up the hill in the afternoon. The three boys who lived on the hillside had to get along with one another because there were no alternatives.

That isolation, accompanied by periods of isolation from school because of the usual measles, chicken pox, and the like, "probably was a blessing," he noted. "It pushed me into a great deal of reading—a novel a day during times of illness and a great deal of continued reading into my adolescent years." Goodlad recalled the period after the age of nine and during the Great Depression when remarking, "The only thing good about those years was that everyone was poor." With the exception of a handful of families in each of the two elementary schools that he attended, everyone belonged to the same low economic class.

University Out of His Reach

He recalls some fleeting thoughts of becoming a physician or a lawyer, but both meant going to the university and there was no prospect of him doing that. A fifth year of high school, called senior matriculation, made it possible for him to secure an education equivalent to the first year at the university, and from that he went on to the provincial normal school (1938) in Vancouver to qualify for an elementary school teaching certificate. He began teaching in 1939 in a one-room school in a district which at that time did not employ superintendents. The school board employed each teacher; after that, books, materials, and administrative decisions were made by a paid secretary/treasurer of the board. Goodlad's salary for that first year was $780 for the 10-month period. From this he had to save enough money to go to summer school for two successive summers in order to qualify for a permanent teaching certificate.

In subsequent years while working as a teacher and principal he attended the University of British Columbia during the summer sessions and took correspondence courses during the year but did not attend at any time as a full-time student. Both Bachelor's (1945) and Master's (1946) degrees were completed in this fashion, and then he broke loose from British Columbia and went to the University of Chicago for his doctorate (1949). At long last he was a full-time resident college student for the first and only year of his life. In 1945 he married Evalene M. Pearson and was later to have two children, Stephen John and Mary Paula.

Teacher of Teachers

Goodlad's professional work can be divided into two periods, namely, an early period (1947-1960) consisting of a variety of positions in teacher education, including Atlanta Teacher Education Service, Emory University, Agnes Scott College, and the University of Chicago; and a second period (1960-1983) at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where he served as director of the Laboratory School and as dean of the Graduate School of Education (ranked first in America the last seven years of his tenure). After his retirement from UCLA he assumed the positions of professor (1985) and director of the Center for Educational Renewal (1986) at the University of Washington. He currently is professor emeritus of education and co-director of the Center. Goodlad also is president of the independent Institute for Educational Inquiry. The educator has authored or co-authored more than 30 books; has written chapters and papers in more than 100 other books and yearbooks; and has more than 200 articles in professional journals and encyclopedias. His writings have been translated into Japanese, French, Italian, Spanish, and Hebrew. He also has received numerous awards, including seven honorary degrees.

Prolific Writer

Among Goodlad's more recent books are Teachers for Our Nation's Schools (1990), for which he received the Outstanding Writing Award from the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education; Educational Renewal: Better Teachers. Better Schools; and In Praise of Education, in which he argues education is an inalienable right in a democratic society.

Since the time of the Great Depression, the effectiveness of American schools has come under increasing criticism. During this period John Goodlad rose in prominence as an effective prophet and mover in educational reform. His research is not regarded as an experiment, but grows out of action, out of his own field experiences as he seeks to close the gap between existing conditions in schools and what policy research models have postulated. The values learned from his parents, teaching in a one-room school, and working in Atlanta during racial unrest were a few of the more meaningful experiences that affected his research.

One idea, "the non-graded school," grew out of his experiences of teaching in a one-room school. Here a student named Ernie, who had a learning disability, did not progress to new grade levels as did the others. As a result he left school as an unhappy child and as a failure. As an alternative to school policies that degrade children and limit learning, Goodlad proposed schools without grade levels. Later he made several suggestions for improving schools in his book A Place Called School (1984). In this comprehensive study, one of the more extensive on-the-scene investigations ever undertaken, he began with the premise that our schools need to be redesigned piece by piece. Throughout the entire field of education he called for sweeping changes that "must be guided first and foremost by moral principles." He wanted to create a human school. He said, "When we speak of our pet we refer to it as a dog, then second we may speak of it being different from other dogs. But, when speaking of human beings, we speak of the differences first, then note that they are people later. However, I want to speak of people as human beings first; I want to develop a human school, for we are all one."

Goodlad's engaging style of writing about school reform is illustrated in his discussion of the Roman god Janus. He states, " … Janus has been represented as having two faces, one looking forward and the other backward. I look from the present into the recent past and from the present into the imminent future. Second, Janus was the animistic spirit of doorways and archways. I speak to the problems of cutting doorways between buildings and archways over different levels of curriculum decision making. Third, Janus, in Roman mythology, was guardian of the gate of heaven (the 'opener' and the 'shutter') and god of all beginnings. Those of us who work in curriculum might be expected, then, to invoke Janus in making our beginnings and to reckon with Janus at the ending believed by some to be still another beginning." (Teachers College Record, November 1968).

More likely due to his love for education than in spite of it, Goodlad has been a critic of the U.S. education system, particularly for the way it trains teachers for the classroom. In a two-part article for Education Week, Feb. 5; 12 1997, Goodlad said the gates to admission to teaching in U.S. public schools "always are loosely latched." And he bemoaned the way reform theories come and go, yielding little if any improvement. "The overwhelming majority of those hired each year to teach in our schools are the product of a misbegotten set of conditions that defy accurate pinpointing of accountability. With accountability dispersed, blame and villain theories run rampant: It's the students, it's the teachers, it's the state, it's the schools of education."

Further Reading

Biographical information about John I. Goodlad can be found in the following: The Canadian Who's Who, The Blue Book (London), Who's Who in the World, The Writers Directory (London), The International Directory of Distinguished Leadership, and The International Who's Who (London).

A selected list of books that the reader may find useful in tracing the growth of Goodlad's ideas and proposals for changes in schools include: The Nongraded Elementary School, in part (revised edition 1963); School, Curriculum, and the Individual (1966); Facing the Future: Issues in Education and Schooling (1976); A Place Called School: Some Prospects for the Future (1984).

Additional Sources

Goodlad, John I., Teachers for Our Nation's Schools, Jossey-Bass Publishers (1990).

Goodlad, John I., Educational Renewal: Better Teachers. Better Schools, Jossey-Bass Publishers (1994).

Goodlad, John, I., What Schools Are For, Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation (1994).

Goodlad, John I., In Praise of Education, Teachers College Press (1997).

Goodlad, John I., "Producing Teachers Who Understand, Believe, and Care," Education Week (February 1997).

Goodlad, John I., "Sustaining and Extending Educational Renewal," Phi Delta Kappan (November 1996).

Goodlad, John I., "The National Network for Educational Renewal," Phi Delta Kappan (April 1994).

Goodlad, John I., "On Taking School Reform Seriously," "Phi Delta Kappan/PDKAA (November 1992).

Goodlad, John I., "Better Teachers for Our Nation's Schools"(summary of a five-year study and recommendations for improvement) Phi Delta Kappan (November 1990). □

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